Look in our Window

When you are in the hospital often you notice things. Things that people who don’t spend much time there pay no attention to. For example, most people who come to visit the hospital find themselves staring into the rooms of all the other kids who are there. They walk by looking into each room, focusing just on the kid in the bed, or in my case, on my daughter. They don’t smile, they don’t wave, they just stare. At times it makes me angry and I want to flip them off. Other times, I wave, and sometimes, I laugh. When we were on our trip to Boston, I figured it out. I think I understand what they’re looking at.

Getting to Boston took us twelve hours. And we did not drive. Two airplanes, two taxis, and a train, twelve hours. I was sick the entire time. Just nervous, but my nerves we so bad I was sick to my stomach. This Boston trip was BIG. Boston Children’s Hospital…Harvard. According to US News and World Report the greatest institution it the country and home to one of the only 7 pediatric motility specialists in the World. I was scared to hear what they had to say, and even more scared that they wouldn’t have anything to say.

As the Taxi pulled up to the hospital there was a HUGE banner, rated #1 Children’s Hospital in the US. It was the first thing you saw. Immediately I felt at ease. I felt like we were in the right place, I felt like we were about to get all the answers we were waiting for. We went to the clinic and waited for our appointment. They took us to a room and the DR. came in. He was really handsome. Distractingly handsome, and horribly arrogant. He welcomed us to Boston and said that he has taken Faith’s case because he believes he is able to help her. In the next hour, he talked to me about all the cutting edge things they are doing at their hospital. Medications he said Michigan has never even heard of. He criticized the work that had been done at Michigan saying he would have done things differently.
It was very hard to hear, but it was also why we were there, to see what if anything they could do for Faith.

Faith was admitted a few hours later and prepped for the Operating Room the following day. That night we were wowed by the technology in the hospital, there were robots everywhere, delivering medicines, delivering food. It was really cool. I was also wowed by the patients that were surrounding us. When you are in hospitals a lot you also are very aware which children are the sickest, and here they were everywhere. Our room had a window, and out that window were windows to the rooms of the other patient rooms. As I looked out one particular room caught my eye. There was a sign, it said Molly in really bight colors. On the bench in that room was a girl Faiths age, sitting with her mom. They both looked so tired. Molly looked bored, and uncomfortable. The mom looked so scared. They both looked so sad. Looking into Molly’s room made me wonder, what do people see when they look into our window?

The next Twenty four hours were some of the worst in our journey so far, Faith was hurting, she was scared, and at one point she even quit breathing. It was a terrible. In the end we had good information so it was worth it, but it sucked. One of the procedures that was done, that is only done in a few hospitals in the US on children is colonic manometry. This is where they stick probes into Faiths colon and test her colon for function. This was essential to see if we will ever be able to get rid of her colostomy. The top part of Faith’s colon when given the strongest stimulant you can give a child showed function. Which was great to see. The Dr who said Michigan didn’t do things the right way then told us he is certain we would see function in the lower part of her colon. That if she had made it to age 5 there had to be some function. In fact he guaranteed it. They put the strongest stimulant into that part of her colon and there was no movement at all. In fact that section of colon showed absolutely no function what so ever. Confirming what Michigan had been telling us, since we first came to them, that the pathology that Michigan had based all of their treatment off of, was in fact, accurate. That our doctors at Michigan, the Harvard of the Midwest were accurate in their treatment of Faith’s disease. This was a huge relief.

We then left Boston, ready to get back to Michigan and the doctors that we have grown to love so much. I was excited, I couldn’t wait to get to her appointment, to tell them what we had learned. This doctor said, we can take her off half of her meds, that we don’t have to do all those colon washes, and that she should be fine in school. He told me everything I wanted to hear. When we got to the clinic three of Faith’s doctors came in to hear the news. They cautioned me. Faith is a difficult case and this Boston Dr. has never treated her disease before. They agreed to let us try his plan…She was back in Mott within a few days. Her Enterocolotis was back, and her colon wasn’t working again. She was pretty sick and I was really scared. They got her back on her usual meds doing our usual washouts and she was feeling better.

We scheduled another admission for January to insert a port thru her appendix into her colon to irrigate the colon from the top down. It is the least aggressive approach we can take right now, and they are not sure its going to work, there is a chance it won’t, but they want to at least give it a try.

So what are they looking at? The people that stare as they walk by. They are looking at what they are afraid of. A sick child. I am certain there is nothing that is more scary than a sick child. It not something you can explain, its not something you can rationalize. And it’s not fair. I think it’s every parents worst nightmare. So when they walk by they are looking at what scares them most.

When you look into our window what do you see?

You see a mom, who looks tired and confused. Who looks five years older than she did a year ago. Who looks scared and uncertain all the time. Who is beyond exhausted but can’t sleep.

You see a little girl who is often pale, and tired, and cinched over from pain in her belly. She also looks scared.

What you would see if you could look just a bit closer is a mother who to spite all of the difficult challenges we’ve faced over the past few years, has built a bond with both of her children that she is certain wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t faced all of this together. A mother who has fallen totally in love with her daughter and is inspired by her love and strength. A mother who is changed for good.

What you would see if you could look just a little closer, is a little girl who thanks me, for taking care of her, for sleeping next to her in the hospital every night, for holding her hand and being there when she is scared. If you keep looking you see a looking you see a five year old who has had more medical procedures/surgeries in the last year than most of any of you in your lifetimes. She is brave and strong, and determined to make a full recovery. All of this is beginning to get to her, she too is forever changed. Someday she will do amazing things. Honestly, she already has.

Before bed the other night she asked if we could pray together, I asked who we should pray for and she said, lets pray for the kids who are sick and their moms who are tired. I said, you mean us, Faith? She
said yes, and for my friends at the

Continue reading “Look in our Window”

not going there

A friend of mine lost her father a few years ago, and when I would ask her how she was doing she would say fine, as long as I don’t go there. I remember thinking, that was so sad, that she couldn’t even think about her dad. Fast forward a year, when I lost my dad, and suddenly I knew exactly what she meant. It really is just too painful to even let yourself think about. I am not someone who cries, in fact, I think as an adult my father saw me cry once, at his bedside. Now, at any moment of any day regardless of my mood, if I think about my dad, I have to fight back tears. I just don’t let myself go there. Some fancy shrink would call that avoidance, I call it survival.

So when I met with my girlfriends this past week to talk about the fundraisers they are doing for Faith they asked me to write a blog on exactly whats going on with Faith, what our days look like, what our future looks like. Letting someone do a fundraiser for you is hard enough, I am the fundraiser lady, that’s what I do, I volunteer, I help others. I’ve realized its very hard when your position goes from giver to receiver. That in its self is a loss for me, hard to deal with. My Aunt says, it’s just people showing their love for you and for the kids, but to me it feels like I have failed to do what I needed to do to take care of my family, regardless of the circumstances.

So accept help, from people, and then talk about the details I try so hard to let slip from my conscious mind. not so easy. I know exactly whats going on with Faith, I know the details, I know the risks, I know her prognosis. I also know that those details that seem factual don’t feel so factual at all. They feel like raw hurt, the kind that makes your throat hurt and your eyes fill with tears. It’s the I just can’t go there hurt.

Really, its simple. Faith’s colon does not work. Neither does her rectum. Because of that she has a hard time absorbing fluid and nutrients she needs to stay healthy. She has many diagnosis’…Hypoganglionosis of colon & rectum, Hirschprungs disease, failure to thrive, Dehydration, Urinary retention, chronic constipation, distal large bowel, colonic illis, mega colon, enterocolitis, there are others… She was given a looped colostomy in hopes that she would someday be able to gain weight, and have a surgery called a pull thru…we are far from that ever happening. The colostomy was supposed to solve her constipation problems…they always work, that’s what they told us…you will have output everyday…Faith’s doesnt work. Sometimes we see no output for days…in fact right now, we are on day three. Sometimes her colon stops working and she gets totally backed up, in theory that should never happen.

She gets fevers because when things get caught in her colon the enterocolitis flares and she gets sick, and feels horrible. When this is happening, she doesn’t eat and hardly sleeps. This is when I get the most worried. She seems to feel better when she is up and moving around. She takes lots of medicines….14 I think at last count, 3 antibiotics, motility agents, stool softeners, anti-nasuia, antacids, probiotics, and periactin, a drug that is given to patients suffering from anorexia, to make them want to eat, Faith loves it, it makes her silly. I, on the other hand, dislike it, she’s silly for the first hour, then she crashes and is an emotional mess…she takes it three times a day. Her med schedule is every two-three hours. She also gets free water, which is nothing more than water with probiotics and some other stuff, that goes thru her feeding tube to help with dehydration, I do this in the middle of the night, mostly, so she doesn’t have to be stuck to her feeding tube pole during the day.

The worst part of her day is her wash-outs. That’s where we take a red rubber tube and clean out the proximal and distal parts of her colon. We use a saline solution and huge syringes, 6 on each side 12 total. When her motility is good, she doesn’t complain too much, when it’s not, she screams and cries. I think it hurts and I think that its scares her because she never knows if its going to hurt. We are supposed to do this three times everyday. Our insurance and supplemental care covers materials for one wash-out a month, because there is no protocol for Faith disease because it is so rare. I know….it’s total BS.

Then there is her colostomy care, Faith has already had one colostomy revision because her stoma prolapsed. This stoma is also prolasping. The skin around it is almost always has a secondary infection and it always has an itchy yeast infection. That hurts her for sure. Its red and bloody, when you clean it even with just water it stings. And I have to do it, and hold her down as she tries to squirm away from me. It sucks. She needs a new bag, every couple of days, they go bad fast because of the wash outs and her infections.

We also have to clean around her Mic-key button (feeding tube) which isn’t usually a big deal, unless her belly is distended which is about half the time. When her belly is descended it is very sore to the touch and often sits funny on her belly. She says it feels bruised. Its gotten pulled out twice, forcefully, and its painful. But, shes five, and she has to play, and I love when she forgets about all the stuff on her belly and plays. I just pray all the time that it stays in place. Either way we have to check placement twice a week, and change it once every two months. We keep track of what she eats during the day so we can give her feeds thru her tube at night. When her motility is bad, the feeds make her sick and we can’t give them to her.

The MD’s at Michigan have been amazing. Dr. Newman is the best and Faith loves her so much. Michigan does not have the equipment to do the testing Faith needs to see what options there are or if there are any. There are a limited amount of hospitals that have this technology. Which is why we are headed to Boston. I was so excited to talk to the Doc that is going to take care of her, the first words out of his mouth were, this is a very rare and difficult case. Not what I was looking to hear, but they seem hopeful they will be able to do something to help her. I told him U of M wanted to send us to another children’s Hospital in December and he said, if you’re not still in Boston you should plan on going. The more eyes on this the better. Again, not what I wanted to hear.

I never thought anything would be as hard as the few days in the hospital after my dad had his stroke, before he died. But watching your child go thru this, seeing her in pain and not being able to do anything for her, is way worse. Not having any answers, not knowing where to go, or where to get her the help she needs. All of it, is heartbreaking.

There isn’t an uplifting ending to this, we don’t have our happy ending yet. I am scared, and I am tired, and I feel so alone in all of this. I feel like I never have good news, and I am usually filled with the same depressing story over and over again. I try to escape, I try to not go there….but this isn’t something I can hide from or run away from.

This past week, we went to a celebration at the new Mott hospital there was a seventeen year old girl, who happened to have digestive issues, who got up and talked about growing up at Mott hospital. How she spent holidays there, how she decorated her room, much like our last year at Mott. Every night since that night, I’ve been thinking about that girl, and wondering what I can do to make life enjoyable and fun in the midst of this chaos. I want Will and Faith to look back on their childhood and remember fun, happy times. I want them to remember that we stayed strong, and stayed together. I don’t have it figured out yet. Most of the time I’m not sure how I am going to get thru the day, looking at tomorrow can be way too overwhelming. If I am able to stay strong, and we do make it thru this, I’ll know in the end I can handle anything. I just pray that Will and Faith will feel the same way.

where I find my faith…

Faith asked me on the way home from church this week, Mom how does god decide what prayers he listens to and what prayers he doest listen to. I’ve been praying really hard that my colon starts working… it makes me sad mom, that god let me down.

Go ahead, answer that question. Because I can’t. I think my first reaction was, I have to stop taking her to church. Because at church they talk to kids about prayers being answered. And Faith is
wondering why her prayers aren’t being answered. And honestly so am I, I understand how she’s feeling.

My dad wasnt a religious man, he was caring, loving, generous individual, but he wasnt prayerful. In fact, in his last hour of life I baptised him myself. I think my step-mother noticed, but I’m pretty sure no one else did. I asked him once, when I was about eight, Dad have you ever prayed? You would have to understand that my mom and her side of the family were dedicated Catholics. Once, I was sick, I had to stay home from church and I asked if we needed to call the Pope to let him know I was staying home with my dad. And I was serious. We were prayerful, but dad, he only came to church on special occations…so I asked him, dad, have you ever prayed, he said once.

I was waiting for a sweet story about when I was born or when Scott was born…but that wasnt it. He told me a story that broke my heart, he was in Vietnam, and his dad had a heart attack and died. When they came to notify him it was late at night, he walked out near some water and looked into the sky, and prayed, god just let me get back for my dads funeral. It was the first time he had ever prayed. I could tell by the way he told the story, he hadn’t made it back in time, but I asked, when did you finally get back dad? Late at night, after my dads funeral. I still wonder if his prayers had been answered if that wouldn’t have been his only prayer.

I remember I used to feel like I had blind faith, that no matter what I would believe. What I have come to realize is, its easy to believe when everything is going well. It’s when things are not going well that it gets complicated. So how, when your life is falling apart, do you find faith?

That Catholic church that I’ve been attending all 37 years of my life, maybe didn’t like the fact that I quit attending church for a few years while I was getting divorced, but no one from that church has ever even called the hospital to check on Faith. I have called numerous times to be sure that she is on their prayer list, and not once has anyone ever called me to see how she is. No priest has ever asked if we would like someone to come and bless her, nothing…she has been in the OR eight times this year, she has had three major surgeries…and nothing. Yet we are asked to keep our faith.

So you think this is a story about a loss of faith. A family giving up on god, and what he has blessed us with. Not really. This is a story of where you find your faith.
And as I see it, god is lucky…hes lucky he has his people to show love and compassion. Because the only faith I’ve got right now, is in the people who I believe have been sent to help us through this journey. Because without them, we wouldn’t be ok. I wouldn’t be ok.

I found faith in a friend, who hasn’t given up on us, who calls a few times a week, even when half the time I don’t call her back, that brings her kids to the hospital and tells me hilarious stories about her and her husband and their sex life, knowing that the last thing I need to be talking about is whats going on with Faith. Shes smart, she gets whats going on, she’s scared too, and for some reason that makes me feel better, that someone else is really worried. She invites us to her house, and she takes control, she lets me just forget whats going on. I give nothing back to her, In fact I think I’m a lousy friend right now, but she’s there no matter what. Sometimes at night when I’m sad, I go into my living room and lay on the rug she bought me…just because it makes me remember how much she loves me…for nothing in return, I really love her…she is where I find my faith.

I find faith in my Aunt, who I believe has made it her mission to be there when my dad can’t be…and shes doing a great job…and for some reason when I am with her I miss my dad less.

I find faith in my mom, who I am certain thought retirement would be way more enjoyable than having an ill granddaughter and having to move into my house to take care of Will when Faith is in the hospital. But she acts like she would rather be doing nothing else but being with Will. When I am pretty sure, that’s not the case.

I find my faith in my Aunt, who has recruited me to attend her Lutheran church, where Faith is so happy. I can tell her anything. She does not judge me. She doesn’t get mad at me for being a bitch or not wanting to talk…she just loves me…and she really loves my kids….She is where I find my faith.

I find faith in my nephew who runs out of his classroom everyday when he sees me and gives me a big hug, not because he knows what I’m dealing with, but because he loves me.
I find faith in my niece, who I believe is smart enough to know what is going on, but isn’t scared away. She just loves to be with Faith and Faith would rather be with no one but her.

I find faith in my man. He is there to hold Faiths hand when she has her treatments done, and there to hold mine when I can’t go any further. He loves my kids as if they were his and they love him. He also has a firm grip on my heart, which right now, maybe more challenging than anything he’s ever had to endure. He is a gift from my dad, I’m more sure of that everyday. and he is where I find my faith.

I find faith in kind words, in loving messages, and prayers from people I hardly know…

I find faith in my son, who loves me no less, when everything I once promised him, has come up empty.

But most of all I find my faith in my Faith. When I am weak, she is strong. When I let go she holds on…She is where I find my Faith.

The game of my life…

Tonight my head hurts. So does my stomach. I would love to say it was just nerves from papa cutting it a little too close for comfort, but that isnt the case at all. Tonight Faith fell. Fell over her own feet while chasing me to the kitchen because she wanted some corn. She slid across the floor, which you would think was a good thing, but not for Faith. Her Mic-key button came out, along with her stomach contents and blood, it amazes me when these things get pulled out how much blood there is. I quickly got it back in, and cleaned up the mess. I knew we had other problems because there was blood showing thru her ostomy bag. It took me an hour to get her calmed down, and for a child like Faith, who has been thru so much I knew she was in a lot of pain. I took off her colostomy bag and there was lots of blood. It was gross. It took a while to get it under control…She was just worried that I was missing the Tigers game. I bit my lip to avoid crying, because that’s just how amazing she is…Laying on our treatment table, worried not about her black and blue belly or the horrible infection around her once again prolasping stoma, or that her feeding tube got forcibly pulled out of her belly, but that I was missing a game, that she knows I really was excited to see all day long.

Suddenly, the game didn’t seem so important. These games have always been important to me, it helps me forget about everything else that’s going on around me, and its so fun when they are doing so well…and well….they really are doing so well. But right now, its hard to think of anything, but whats going on with Faith as important.

She needs to go to another hospital, however we have to fight to get the insurance companies to let us leave the state…Even though our doctors have admitted to the insurance companies that they are unable to take care of Faith and they don’t have the equipment needed to help to figure out the plan that will best work for her…Then we have to get her to the other state and stay there, as long as it takes to get her the help she needs…I dont sleep much at all anymore. I think, and think about what I could be doing differently to help her. She doesn’t feel good half the time, and when the infection gets like it is right now she gets fevers a lot, and she’s so tired all the time, and she’s in pain…which sucks to see your kid in pain.

I miss the days of laying awake at night because I was worried that Michigan could lose the game…or being sick to my stomach for 9 innings of a Tigers game. I know there has to be a solution to all of this. I wish it was as simple as a Brady Hoke W or a Verlander KKK…the stakes are so high here…truly, this is the game of my life.

the moments I’m grateful for…

Faith and my niece JuliaI used to love being alone. Not all the time, because I am a people person, but I loved going running and I think half the reason I would run so far was because I loved my alone time so much. Now, I dread my alone time. There really isn’t all that much of it, but when I have it, it pretty much sucks. Today, I realized that it’s when I am alone that I really can think about what’s going on in my life. And for the first time, in my life, I have no direction. I have no idea where I am headed. I have no plan, and that is a very scary thing. I feel like I am in control of nothing, and I have no clue when that will change.

Faith has been out of the hospital for two weeks now, but her stoma from her colostomy is infected and she’s had fevers three times this week. She woke up this morning in pain and said, Mom, When am I going to be better? I can’t answer her. I have no idea. I am fairly certain her doctors have no idea.

Our dining room is now a medical procedure room, where I stick a red rubber tube into her colon and wash it out, hoping that the infection that makes her feel so bad will get better. We have to change her ostomy bag in there and treat the yeast infection and nasty infection around her stoma. Her last stoma prolapsed, meaning part of her colon that was supposed to stay in her body was now coming out of her body…so they cut that part of her colon out and made a new one…now, the new one, is also starting to prolapse. The ramifications of that, I can’t even consider at this time. We take care of her Mickey button, which is where she receives her tube feeds…She has medicines and other things we infuse thru her tube every two hours or so.

Her doctors seem to agree to disagree on her treatment. One says remove her entire colon, one says, keep as much as you can, one said her small bowel is messed up too. The bottom line they have no clue. They have no plan. That is what happens when you get a disease that is diagnosed once a year in the USA. Everyone says…go here, go there…doesnt matter. No one is treating her illness successfully right now, Mott is where she is comfortable.

I’ve done a great job, she has no clue how scared I am. Her brother may, he isn’t sleeping well, and asks me all the time when we are headed back to the hospital. I’ve convinced her that Kindergarten is not something she wants to do, that a ballet school is way more exciting. Even thou for some reason this is one of the hardest things for me, its such a monumental thing…starting kintergarten. I already play over and over in my head, I didn’t go to kindergarten I was too sick…I just am sad that she’s missing out. It’s just not fair. She would love it. And everyone wants an explaination…why don’t you try it…I assure you, no one has thought more about this than me, and I can’t talk to you about why. Because when I think about it I can’t breathe, so talking about it is out of the question.

So, My alone thoughts are way worse than any of this stuff. Our life is hard right now, and I seem to just feel happy for moments at a time. But those moments, I am so grateful for.

A friend, seriously offering to marry me so I have health insurance, an I-pad to make our hospital stays so much easier. A tweet from a friend that cares so much about my daughter, he thinks about it in the middle of a very busy life. A near stranger who tracked down my daughters last name to send us food from whole foods so we didn’t have to eat hospital food. Friends who continue to try to organize a fundraiser, for us, even thou my pride stands firmly in their way. A niece who can make my Faith forget she’s sick. Friends, who have come to clean my house that is totally overrun…An Aunt who’s there in place of my dad. My mom who takes over as mommy for Will the minute we get admitted again. My son who loves me no less even though as he just said this summer has been the worst, And someone to hold my hand, just to hold it.

I’m grateful for these moments, the moments that I forget I am sad. More than anything, I am a grateful for her, that god choose me to be her mom, because, really she’s amazing. And when I think of how amazing she is…those are the moments Im happiest.

a lesson about life and Target

I love Target. It has almost everything I need and since the divorce it’s where I get most of my clothes. Lately, since all of this with Faith I don’t have Target money anymore. Last week my girlfriend gave me a $50.00 gift card and I was so excited! Yesterday I decided I was going to leave the hospital and go get Faith something special from Target. Then Dr. Newman came to talk to me.

The disease Faith has is very rare. A couple of cases a year are seen in the US. She actually has two diseases, called allied diseases, which makes it even more rare. The problem when you have a disease that no one else has, the doctors have never successfully treated it. So they are guessing. Educated guessing, but guessing. Things have not gone as planned and things seem to be getting worse as we go.

Dr. Newman who Faith loves, came and told us there was something that they saw on her CT…they didnt know what it was, but they were concerned. they’ve also been concerned about obstruction, and function. They have no answers, they are as frustrated as we are. I asked Dr. Newman, what do I tell Faith? Will she be well enough to go to Kindergarten? Will she ever have her insides inside her again where they belong?? When do we get to go home? Dr. Newman who I believe really loves Faith, shook her head and shrugged. She has no answers for those questions.

So I left for Target, first I had to drop off Will, who cries so hard when he has to say goodbye. And I am sure would cry even harder if he was able to see me crying as I drove away. I drove to Target, excited to get myself a dress and Faith something fabulous to play with. I found a dress right away…maize, yellow is my color, easy choice. So I headed to the toy department.

I found a baby shopping cart, which Faith could push around the hospital, and with the chance of heading back to the OR this week, it would be important to get her to walk.

As I headed to the front of the store I passed the school supplies. Theyre all so inexpensive this time of year, so I looked for some things for Faith to use in the hospital. Then I saw her.

A young girl, Faiths age, with her mom. She was really cute, and small like Faith. I heard her mom telling her that when she was in kindergarten she didn’t eat lunch at school, and that she was lucky to get to go to school for a full day in kindergarten. The girl was picking out a lunch box, and I just stood there staring at them. Then I went and looked at every lunch box they had, unzipping them, seeing how big they were. Some lady asked me if I was okay, and asked if I needed a tissue. I was really crying and I didn’t even realize it.

Faith is supposed to be starting kindergarten. We are supposed to be school shopping. That mom and that kid in Target should be me and Faith. I want to pick her out a lunchbox, instead I’m trying to figure out how to tell her she has to be connected to her tube feeds 24/7.

As I walked towards the registers I passed the school clothes, there was really cute stuff, that Faith would love, but she has to wear dresses so her ostomy bag and feeding tubes don’t show. I want her to be able to wear what ever she wants, not what covers her medical mess on her belly.

So I was crying in the check out line…I didnt really even care. And I cry in front of no one! I drove to the hospital and took Faith into the procedure room to do her colon wash, as her 30lb body laid on that table, she noticed that I had been crying. She asked me what was wrong, and I was honest. I told her I felt bad that I saw a little girl school shopping and she was stuck in this hospital. Her response…at least were stuck in this hospital together.

So there is was, my lesson. And she is so right, three of Faiths friends lost their battles with their diseases this last week. And we are here together, as we should be. So I hate this, and I am not okay, I am scared out of my mind and I’m worried about how long I can do this, and how long Will can take all of this, and my house, that I built with my dad, how long I’ll be able to keep it, and that my kids both want their mom and I am only one person if I could divide myself, it would have happened, months ago.

When we went to bed Faith asked me to sleep with her, she kissed my eyes and said goodnight mommy, we can go to Target together soon.

Staying Strong?

Last week I got some bad news about Faith. She failed a test that is critically important when looking at the recovery of her disease. When the doctor from Cincinnati called to explain it to me, I felt like someone sucked all the air out of my lungs. This entire time we had been dealing with this, I had aways thought that someday Faith would be better, with the exception of a missing colon and some nasty scars. I thought we would live this terrible year and she would be on the mend. I had always maintained that my daughter would fully recover from this yuck and we would be back on track in a year or two. Suddenly, that doesn’t seems to be the case. This road trip seems to have just gotten longer.

I don’t have much to say to anyone. Everyone keeps asking how I am. In the last two years, I lost my dad to a very unexpected death, I got divorced, I lost my income source and my ability to support myself and my family. Thru all that loss…I had a lot to say. I could tell stories about my dad, I could complain about the divorce, and I could lecture everyone on how one minute you can have it all and the next wonder if you will lose your car or your house.

Now, its different. When people ask me how I am I have nothing to say, I avoid the conversations, I avoid everyone. Everyone one asks are you okay? I am not sure how to answer, then sometimes when you do, they say things like….well it could be worse or she will be fine. Someone once told me, I bet there are parents that would trade places with you, they’ve got it worse. It’s easier to avoid these conversations. Because when you are in a situation like this, when someone says the wrong thing…you remember.

I have a friend who sends me messages via twitter and he usually asks me the same thing…you staying strong?? It’s my favorite question, because I can say YES. Because thru all of this, it is the one thing I can be positive about, I am staying strong, on the outside anyway. I may burst into tears the minute I am alone, and I may lay awake at night worrying about how we will ever get thru this mess…but I am doing this. I wake-up every day. I take care of my daughter and my son. and I am a great mom, a great single mom. Just don’t ask me if I am okay. Because I’m not. If you want to ask how we are its simple…you staying strong? Yes, I am staying strong. Right now, that’s all I’ve got.

this is not normal…

In April Faith had an NG tube placed in her nose for tube feeds. Because her digestive system doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked ever in her five years she doesn’t eat nearly what a child her age should be eating. The solution to this tube feeds. She has an IV pole at home and she wears a backpack when she goes out of the house. The issue of course was the tube that was always taped to her face. When ever anyone would try to take her picture she would cover her tube up with her hand. The tube really bothered her.

The surgeons soon decided it was a long-term problem and admitted Faith for an insertion of an G-tube, a more permanent tube that goes directly into her belly. She was ecstatic! She said, “now I will look like a normal kid.” She told everyone, “I’m getting my tube out of my nose, everyone with think I am a normal kid now.” The response of just about everyone…”Faith you are a normal kid already.” I am sure it seems wise to respond in this fashion as an adult. I am sure it seems that’s what she would want to hear. I am also very sure as adults we see things very differently.

At five, she is the wise one. She is not normal. This is not normal, it is our normal, but it is by no means what a healthy five-year old kid is doing. She gets her nutrition thru a tube that is inserted into her belly. That nutrition is a formula that comes in a can and is carried around with her all the time. Part of her colon is in a bag on the outside of her body. She takes medicines around the clock, we do colon washes twice a day, her ostomy bag has to be changed, her stoma has to be cleaned, her g-tube has to be flushed, her incisions have to be cleaned.

We’ve converted part of my bedroom into a treatment room. I have to time her colon washes around when I have another adult, who is on Faith’s pre-approved allowed to see my colon list, available to hold her hand. She needs that person, because even though we do that procedure 2x everyday, sticking a rubber tube into your colon and washing it out is a very scary thing. She has to pee on a schedule, because her bladder is so enlarged from this disease she can carry around massive amounts of waste in her bladder with no clue at all its there. We have to keep track of everything she eats, every calorie, so we know how fast we need to run her feeds so she gets the amount of calories she needs.

The worst part is the pain, and the pain control. She wakes up every night crying that her tummy hurts and I have to turn off her feeds. I give her pain medicine and I hold her up in bed until she falls back to sleep, sometimes it takes a couple of hours. She often wakes up an hour later crying in pain again. On a rare occasion she sleeps thru the night. Those nights are the scariest for me, I wake-up in an absolute panic thinking something horrible must have happened while I was asleep. I run to her room to feel her stomach and make sure she is still breathing.

None of this is normal. This isn’t what normal five-year olds are dealing with. Recently, we went out on my friends boat. He drives really fast, and the wind blows, and the water splashes up on to the boat it’s too loud to talk, or to even think. When we got back into the car Faith said to me, “Mom, I loved when we were going really fast on Gary’s boat. I felt totally normal kid and forgot I was sick.” Funny thing about that was, I had too.

So in the midst of all this chaos I have to look for things that help us to forget what our reality is right now. Because sometimes its nice just to feel like a normal kid.

are we there yet?

If you ever have the opportunity to walk around a children’s hospital and just observe whats happening around you, I think it’s a great idea. It does one thing for certain, it puts life into perspective. It makes you realize what you have to be thankful for and just how precious life is.

Listen to the conversations the parents are having, they’re talking about their children. They’re talking about when they get to go home, they’re talking about the rock star doctors that are saving the lives of their children. They’re talking about the nurses who seemingly love the children as if they are their own. The conversations are heavy and full of drama. Real life drama. They are comforting. As if your pain hurts a little less, because someone else is going thru it.

Whats even more inspiring is to listen to the conversations the kids are having. I often have to walk away from them talking because the conversations are so real, and painful that I am unable to stop the tears from falling from my eyes. They feel normal around each other, and I understand that feeling. I feel normal talking to their parents as well. Today Faith talked to an eight year old boy named AJ, a heart patient from Nebraska. They were exchanging their stats, how many trips to the OR, how many pumps they’re on, what meds, how long they’ve been NPO (noting by mouth),how many specialists they see, their doctors names, etc. When Faith looked at me and said, “Mom, whats my nephrologist name?” She was trying to get his name because AJ had kidney pain and his doctor didn’t believe him. Faith is 5. A five-year old shouldn’t be able to refer her 8-year-old friend to a doctor. But these kids can they all can.

Sometimes, I get really mad. I believe Faith has been admitted to the hospital 7 times this year. It seems like we are here all the time. Our life is interrupted. I can’t work, and take care of things I need to take care of. Things are falling apart. You lose touch with everyone, because your normal relationships are gone. It’s so frustrating. So, I too occasionally have to take a walk to gain perspective…one trip to the oncology floor, knocks me back into shape. There are kids up there who have been here a year, some even longer.

The recovery from this most recent surgery won’t be fast. She needs to start tolerating her feeds, and gaining weight. She has a long way to go, and once she gets there we have to go to Cincinnati. We may have to stay there for a while. This is a long, long road. Her surgeon told us at the beginning of all this, it would be. When I was little I hated long car rides, I would ask my parents all the time…are we there yet? My dad never answered, only my mom would…almost, Mary Ann. This seems like the longest, worst road trip, I’ve ever been on. My dad died last year, so now I just ask him….Dad are we there yet? Just for this one time I am certain he wishes he could answer.

We’re talking about poop? Seriously??

We take lots of things in life for granted, all of us do, well most of us. Things like having a car, having a job, having money in the bank, having food on the table, but most of us are aware of the fact that we take these things for granted. There is one thing that I can guarantee that everyone takes for granted, Pooping. Never before I had Faith did I realize what a huge deal pooping is. But it is a huge deal and if its something that you can do, without fail, well that is one more thing I think you should be thankful for.

Faith can’t poop. She hasnt been able to since birth. We’ve given her enemas and laxatives since she was a month old. Her doctors tried manual disimpactions (yep, it’s as awful as it sounds), the strongest laxatives, and enemas every day at home…nothing worked. In Feb 2011 we came to the University of Michigan. Faiths X-ray showed her entire colon and rectum impacted with stool. Her colon was enlarged into something they called mega-colon. Her bladder was the size of a pregnant adult womans, her kidney function was poor, and her blood work was bad. Turns out Faiths colon doesnt have the nerves it needs to move stool through the colon and out of the body. That problem, not being able to poop, has caused a bunch of other things to go wrong in Faiths body.

The immediate solution to this problem, a colostomy. I remember the day Dr. Newman told me this was the only way we could keep Faith healthy. Her colon was going to be outside of her body? She was going to poop into a bag? I dont cry easy, but I burst into tears right in front of Faith. She went in for the surgery the next day.

Things since then, things haven’t gone as planned. Infections, a prolapsed stoma, failure to thrive (meaning she can’t gain weight),and she gets sick. Sick to the point that I get really scared. Everyone asks me if shes going to be okay? I answer yes, someday. I believe that. For now, we have to take this day by day. When people say how is Faith, I have no clue how to answer. She isn’t good. She isn’t doing the things she should be. I have no clue if she’ll be able to start kindergarten in the fall. It’s not an easy question to answer.

What I do know is she is strong. She handles all of this with courage and grace. She worries more about her roommates that are no where near as sick as she is than she worries about herself. She inspires me to be thankful in the face of absolute chaos and a life that is falling apart around me. And, she loves me, to spite the fact that I can’t fix this. To spite the fact that she is in pain everyday, and I can’t make the pain go away. She loves me more because of all of this, which is amazing, because you would think, at 5 you would loose trust when your mom can’t make you feel better.

What’s also amazing is I don’t feel like less of a mom. The hardest part is that I can’t make her feel better or tell her when she’s going to feel better. And I really miss my son, so much that I have to keep that far from my mind, we’re in the hospital and away from him way too much. They deserve a break, they need one, we all do. On our way to the hospital this time Faith says, “Mom, we should be going to the beach, its summer. It’s the 4th of July. We shouldn’t be going to the hospital.” She’s right.